Storytelling at Jāņparks neighbourhood
As part of the Europe Challenge activities in Valmiera the library collaborates with a newly founded neighbourhood association. One of their first public events was a gathering in Jāņparks, in the midst of summer. The neighbourhood association had just begun and members were slowly building their relationships with one another, as with the community they like serving. Valmiera library thought they could be a tool by assisting them to take the next steps. And by getting involved in organising this event, the library also promoted its visibility. The public event was all about sharing stories on life in the local neighbourhood. It was held outdoors – partly due to Covid-19 pandemic measures, which helped create a sense of community.
Several residents of the neighbourhood took the stage and shared their stories about the Jāņparks neighbourhood publicly, including memories of past events, places, their families and buildings gone. They shared stories about the local park, the train station, local shops, private items that have significant meaning and even about the creative men that used to live in the neighbourhood. More than 90 people gathered to listen to the stories and were encouraged to exchange between themselves. So, there were a lot of private conversations that will always remain unheard. But in all conversations we sensed feelings of community and local identity improving.
A short questionnaire that was given to each participant at the event underlined this sensing. It consisted of three short questions: Does exploring the history of your neighbourhood improve your sense of identity to the local community? Do events like this encourage you to participate more in the activities of the local community? How do you prefer to be involved in events like these – actively participating and having conversations or passively listening and watching?
With 45 participants returning a questionnaire, 43 of them agreed to the first question and 44 agreed to the second question. When it came to people’s preferences on how they participate – 18 of them said they like being active and talking to one another, whereas 27 participants preferred to passively listen and watch.
These answers once again made clear to us – the team from the library – that we can be a significant partner in helping these communities by supporting them with human resources, marketing and sharing existing relationships.
A local TV network was invited to report on the event. It was broadcasted on the local TV channel “ReTV” three times and further popularised the event.